I think that racism and sexism are issues that are basically dealt with as far "awareness" campaigns are concerned. Yeah, there's some issues still to be dealt with, but not the sorts of things that are going to be dealt with by discourse in the public sphere.
Here is sort of what gets to me: It's really hard to tell who actually believes things and who is just saying what they think is the socially appropriate thing to say. You know what? At least I'm pretty sure that overt racists are actually racist. I have to respect their willingness to be what they are, even if I think that their position is flawed. But maybe that's just one of MY convictions. I hold being genuine above a a lot of other qualities and I'm not sure that we do that as a species. We should.
You know what? I'm set off now. You've set off the philosophy major good work.
Within the social sphere, power actually does == responsibility. Freedom of speech is a pretty serious power. It isn't as powerful as the freedom to be heard, but these days it's not hard to get an audience for a few minutes (fuck, your listening to me right now aren't you?). If you are free to say whatever you want, the onus is on YOU to make sure that what you are saying makes sense. If you say "I agree with Steve", that is meaningful and useful because it adds to the statistic "people who agree with Steve". Maybe your reasons for agreeing are suspect, but that's a seperate issue. More importantly, if you just reiterate what Steve said (even worse if you don't actually understand the subtleties) all you are doing is adding a bunch of noise to the signal and preventing the people listening to you from hearing a new viewpoint...or just wasting their time. The point is, you are misusing your freedom of speech. Yes, it is a freedom that you have so I can't make you shut up...but that doesn't mean that you are using it responsibly.
OK, that's basically the internet in a nutshell and there is nothing I can do about it. Great. I may as well go stick my head in a fucking barrel for all the good it will do. But no, I keep fucking trying. Keep trying to convince the individuals in our society to think about the broader ramifications of the actions they are considering before they actually do them. No, that is never going to happen. You know that, I know that. But I keep trying anyway. And do you know what? THAT'S WHAT A FUCKING CONVICTION IS. Fighting a winning battle isn't brave, even if you are on the ethically justified side of things. in most cases, the best you can say is that you are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of by somebody who DOES genuinely believe in the battle that you are fighting. I guess that I prefer that to the alternative of being taken advantage of by the bad guys, but there is one fight in which picking a side without understanding what's going on is definitely bad: the "getting along as fellow humans who understand eachother at least well enough to not kill eachother fight". At least if we are all honest about what we know, believe and think, we are only going to come to blows over things about which there is no rational alternative.
Aside: Curiously, the post forms a circle. I wrote all that because I'm slightly drunk, and the contents of this post are a fairly major reason for my slight drunkenness. I'm not entirely sure if this is noble or sad. Probably both.